The Mummy (1959)

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Released 22-Oct-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 84:16
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Terence Fisher
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Peter Cushing
Christopher Lee
Yvonne Furneaux
Eddie Byrne
Felix Aylmer
Case Gatefold
RPI Box Music Franz Reizenstein


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Swedish
Danish
Greek
Turkish
Arabic
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Western world's fascination with ancient Egypt has given rise to a great number of movies, stretching from the earliest silent films like Cleopatra (1899), through Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy, to the latest action adventure offerings including the excellent series Stargate. For a look at the incredible number of movies and other material that has been spawned, take a look at this page at the American University in Cairo: http://www.aucegypt.edu/academic/anth/anth400/mummy_movies.htm .

    Included in this number is of course this film, produced in 1959. As I have watched each of the previous films in this box set I have been aware of the history of the story on which they are based - Frankenstein and Dracula both arose from books. As I watched The Mummy, I realised that I knew nothing about the origin of the story. From what I can find out it would appear that the basis for the story may be the death of Lord Carnarvon seven weeks after opening the Tomb of Tutankhamen. At the time, the discovery of the tomb was headline news across the globe. A novelist of the time, Mari Corelli, warned of dire consequences for anyone who entered the tomb and Conan Doyle announced that Carnarvon's death could have been the result of the mummy's curse. Although this event popularised the curse it did not originate with this story - the original story seems to have come from an English novelist, Jane Loudon Webb in the 1820s after she viewed a bizarre striptease act in which mummies were unwrapped in a show near London's Piccadilly Circus. The concept of vengeful mummies was further refined in the story Lost in a Pyramid: The Mummy's Curse by Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women.

    This is the second movie in which Christopher Lee plays a non-speaking part. Both as Frankenstein and as the mummy, his face is covered and only his eyes are natural. As I watched the film I became aware of the fact that Lee is a brilliant mime - you can tell exactly what his character is feeling. To do this with only body language and his eyes is the mark of a true genius. While the other main actors do credible jobs they are particularly overshadowed by Lee's performance in The Mummy.

    We spend a credible amount of time during the film in ancient Egypt setting up the back story surrounding the Mummy. These scenes are a little cheesy by today's standards but still fun to watch.

    The story starts with the opening of the tomb of Princess Ananka. The archaeologists are excited to find that the tomb has not been opened since ancient times. What they do not realise is that the tomb is guarded by a curse...the curse of the mummy. In ancient times, the head of the priests, Kharis, was in love with Princess Ananka. This was a forbidden love, and when she died he attempted to bring her back to life with an ancient ritual. He was caught in the act and as punishment is buried alive in the tomb to act as her guardian for all time. When the tomb is opened, the mummy is released to act out his vengeance.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The transfer on this disc sits somewhere in between the other two included in this box set. The grain is slightly less and the sharpness slightly improved. The strange artefact where a single frame contains heightened blue in parts is present on this disc as well. On this disc, it occurs at 64:19 and a couple of frames later as well.

    The transfer is presented at 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio appears to be 1.66:1 so we are close but not quite right.

    The sharpness is still lacking even if it is an improvement over Dracula. Unfortunately, the black level and in particular the shadow detail is sadly lacking in this transfer. As many scenes are shot in dark surroundings, this lack is particularly noticeable. Overall, the contrast is down a little and some scenes look a little drab. There is a small amount of low level noise present. This noise can be seen clearly in the sky at 14:07.

    Colours are good and are relatively free of noise although there is some posterization present in the backgrounds.

    MPEG artefacts are restricted to background posterization as seen at 65:22 in the background and in many other scenes. The transfer is free of aliasing or telecine wobble. There are a fair number of film artefacts present, both small and large. A particularly large one can be seen at 64:19 as an example. Grain is present in reasonable quantities.

    Both the English and English for Hearing Impaired subtitles are easy to read and accurate to the spoken word as well as offering up descriptions of explosions and other audio effects in the Hearing Impaired track.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality remains the same as the previous two discs - somewhat thin and bright but perfectly serviceable.

    Dialogue quality is excellent throughout, as is the audio sync.

    The music was somewhat more in the background for this film with only the occasional swelling of creepy music to help the mood.

    There was no surround nor subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    A static menu presented at 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced with no audio. Again I think they have taken a close-up of a section of the original movie poster for use as the backdrop.

Theatrical Trailer (2:18)

    Also presented at 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced but displayed with a black border around the entire image reducing its overall size while maintaining the approximate aspect ratio. It is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack that has the dramatic voice-over that all these trailers seem to have. The quality is down a bit from the main feature with more grain and film artefacts and some brightness variations.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As noted in the other reviews, the box set is available in R1 but I cannot locate any reviews of the material. I have to assume, though, that in all likelihood the transfers are the same as in the single releases. Again I found a review of the single release and the video and audio quality seem similar. Overall with the three films I would probably go for the Region 4 version. Some of the dolly pans in these films are shaky enough without the introduction of 3:2 pulldown problems.

Summary

    Considering the times in which it was made and its limited budget, this is a very entertaining film. I cannot say that any scene really gave me the chills other than one scene for which this film was famous in its day (I won't spoil the surprise). Peter Cushing was not as interesting in this film as he is in his vampire hunting roles but he is still not bad.

    The video is not bad for its age.

    The audio is showing its age.

    The extras are lacking.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Friday, November 01, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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